Circuit 1:5 (1999)
"If something makes a noise, we're going to be playing with it."- Tom Gray of Gomez
Stars: The Residents, The Jayhawks, Gomez
Other Stars: Death In Vegas, Royal Trux
Manufacturer: Laser Pacific
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (some language)
Run Time: 02h:15m:00s
Release Date: 2000-03-07
DVD ReviewCircuit: 5 is the fifth issue of Quickband's music-related "DVD magazine." Most of the disc's content is original, produced specifically for Circuit and shot inexpensively on video in the Hollywood area. It gets high marks for diversity, but individual pieces vary in quality—some drag on too long, some are much too brief, and some feel like "filler." I wasn't familiar with most of the featured bands and found about 40% of the material worthwhile; your mileage may vary.
The disc's content is organized into four major areas and a "Junk Drawer." Taking the sections one at a time:
BANDWIDTH—artist profiles with plenty of music
The members of the UK-based semi-grunge band wander around the Hollywood Entertainment Museum and talk about music, influences and society at large. Their banter is witty and fun to listen to, and the band reminded me of the early Beatles in some ways (possibly because Tom Gray looks and sounds vaguely like John Lennon). I would have liked to hear more of the band's music, which rarely comes to the foreground in this segment.
This film visits these laid-back folk rockers as Gary Louris and Marc Perlman give viewers a tour of the studio where they're mixing a new album. They come across as mature with a nice sense of humor, and I liked their music (heard only in brief excerpts here.)
Scritti Politti - Anomie and Bonhomie
This is a short film (AR 1.85:1), featuring Scritti Politti's main man Green Gartside mixing personal ruminations and music over images of subways, trains and Bronx street life; it's well-executed but a bit overlong. This incarnation of Scritti Politti's always-evolving music (orchestration and vocals by Gartside, recorded with various studio musicians) varies in style from hip-hop to melodic and is richly layered. A brief video interview with the artist is included as a supplement.
Greg Brown and Victor Damiani (formerly of "Cake") talk in a donut shop about their music, their decision to strike out on their own and their shared interest in science fiction. In two entertaining supplemental clips (edited out of the main piece), they tell a great story about their "Mod Night" experience near San Jose and discuss favorite "death ray" scenes in sci-fi movies.
FRONT ROW—live concert footage
Breakbeat Era - Live at Baraka
Vocalist Leonie Laws impresses in this UK techno/dance band's live performance. Her vocal style is strong and expressive, reminding me somehow of Deep Purple's Ian Gillan. Interview footage follows the concert clip, and the band's Ultra Obscene music video is included as a supplement in 1.66:1.
Royal Trux Live from Vinyl
Interview and concert footage from this neo-punk/metal duo. Supplements include the 30-second TV spot for their Accelerator album and additional, somewhat rambling interview material.
Death In Vegas—Live at the Troubadour
This band focuses on instrumentals with a strong beat—the concert footage is unfortunately very dark, with the director struggling to find interesting images. An interview with the band's principals is included as a supplement.
Supreme Beings of Leisure Live from Lunapark
An interesting, heavily sampler-based group with a sound that successfully mixes 90's techno and 70's jazz without compromising the style of either one. Concert (mixed video and film) and interview footage are nicely handled.
IN TUNE—new music video
The Wiseguys: Ooh La La
Hip-hop/house music meets a 60's design sensibility in this vividly visual music video, which succeeds by not taking itself too seriously as the camera explores a world of airplanes, intrigue and silver bikinis. It lacks a strong center, but moves by so quickly you won't even notice—though you probably won't remember it much afterwards. An alternate audio track features a telephone interview with DJ Touché, producer behind "The Wiseguys," but the sound quality is poor, even by phone standards.
UNDERCURRENT—past artists of influence
This section features a broad range of material by The Residents, the experimental music and performance group. The anonymous artists most often manifest as top-hat-wearing eyeballs in tuxedoes—their business affairs are handled by the Cryptic Corporation, whose "front men" may or may not be members of The Residents.
The DVD does a nice job of introducing The Residents, with a broad perspective on their work, but it's a frustratingly limited sampling—the excerpts and short pieces here are only enough to whet one's appetite. Included are:
A short, stop-motion animation piece introducing The Residents—it's somewhat abstract in black-and-white, with the group's logo appearing in red; the film print is in poor condition.
One Minute Movies
A set of four 60-second proto-music video films produced in 1980, with avant-garde visuals and sound:
Act of Being Polite
The Simple Song
Birth of Music Videos
Slightly longer music films including:
Hello Skinny (1979)
Freak Show (Excerpt, 1990)
Harry the Head (Excerpt, 1991)
Brief excerpts from three of The Residents' complex, visually arresting live performances—unfortunately, the shot-on-video footage shows its age:
Mole Show - 1981-84 - with Penn Jillette (of Penn & Teller)13th Anniversary - 1985-87Ty's Freak Show - 1991
Circuit has also included a complete Residents discography (albums and singles) and a well-written appreciation of the group. The detail and care apparent in these text-based supplements makes the brevity of the video footage all the more disappointing.
JUNK DRAWER—odds and ends, briefly entertaining
Opening Movie - replay of the disc's opening sequence
Crack Me Up - your own personal laugh track (appears to repeat indefinitely)
See Food - a little-too-closeup of someone's mouth enjoying 5 different foods
Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: C+
|Aspect Ratio||1.33:1 - Full Frame||1.85:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes||yes|
Image Transfer Review: Most of the new material on this was shot on videotape, fundamentally limiting the image quality, and some of the older footage is not in great condition. Source issues aside, the DVD transfer is clean and solid with minimal artifacting, aside from the Gomez piece which has significant problems with thin horizontal lines. (Includes material of 1.33:1, 1.66:1, and 1.85:1 OAR)
Image Transfer Grade: B
Audio Transfer Review: Quickband has really opened up the soundstage on this DVD, with just about everything in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround. It doesn't work well during interviews, where the voices aren't anchored to the screen, but most of the music comes through loud and clear with an enveloping ambience and very solid bass when called for. (The older materials sound as good as can be expected, with narrower frequency ranges and little low-end activity.) I suspect a lot of the DD5.1 music was electronically processed or just echoed into the surrounds, but it works—even the live recordings sound great with little distortion.
Audio Transfer Grade: A
Disc ExtrasAnimated menu with music
2 Other Trailer(s)1 TV Spots/Teasers
- DVD-ROM content: PCFriendly access for web links
The numerous supplements are presented as brief video clips, text screens with full-motion video, or alternate audio tracks. Every major "article" is accompanied by a brief but informative "Artist Background" text supplement. Other extras (mostly interviews) vary in quality, generally consisting of additional material shot at the same time as the associated feature. The disc's listed running time of 2 hours and 15 minutes is deceptively modest—it took me a full three hours to watch everything.
Quickband's distributor Warner Home Video has also included two theatrical trailers for Three Kings and House on Haunted Hill—both are accessible easily and non-intrusively through a main menu option.
There is also a useful "back issues" section (hidden in the Instructions screen) describing previous issues of Circuit and Short, Quickband's short film DVD magazine.
Extras Grade: B
Final CommentsCircuit 5 is competently mastered and nicely packaged, and it covers a broad range of contemporary music styles. Like most music-related video magazines (remember Warner's VHS-format Rock Video Monthly?), its value may be largely dependent on your interest in the featured artists. I discovered some pieces I'll watch and listen to again, and some I won't. The content is uneven, but anyone with an open-minded interest in music is likely to find something appealing here.
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Dale Dobson 2000-05-20